Sunday, October 20, 2013

Re: Rebuke

In Fundamentalism, "rebuke" comes up a lot.  It seems to happen all the time. It happens so often that you start to think it's normal after a while - and is often equated with love, so that if someone rebukes you in a nasty way it's because they love you. And after a while, you can't separate love from anger anymore...

...but that's another post.

How does this practical theology manifest itself? The vast majority of actions God is described as having taken in someone's life are classified as "rebukes".  Such as, "this situation was such a rebuke to me that I didn't have the faith in God I needed", or "God really rebuked me about this sin via this situation".  Even blessings are often "rebukes".

Recently, I had a training session at work that really put me in a foul mood.  It was poorly done, the instructor couldn't clarify anything, and it was a large waste of time.  It began a tailspin of frustration that threatened to take over my whole day.

I ran home quickly for lunch afterwards, and began to notice that I was continuously stumbling across moment after moment of beauty. The weather was crisp and the sky azure. A stand of trees flamed purple and orange and red and yellow all together.  The radio was playing a particularly beautiful piece of music.  I found a pretty rock in my coat pocket left there by one of my children in a random act of love.

Now, when I was a Fundamentalist, my attitude towards this would have been that God was rebuking me with all these nice things to remind me I had no right to be upset.  The result - I would swallow the rage, put on a smile, and self-righteously thank God for yelling at me and putting me in my place.

But now that I'm learning more of what God is really like, I had a sudden moment of clarity realizing that these beautiful things weren't there to "rebuke" me.  They were kindnesses to show me love instead.  It was as if God was saying, "I know that was a tough morning.  They really need to hire someone who knows how to teach next time, eh?  Here's some beautiful things to cheer you up before you start your afternoon of hard work again."

God continues to show Himself to be much kinder, more sympathetic, and infinitely more loving than I had ever previously been taught.



  1. I think sometimes in religious circles we latch on to a word and we use it to death. We use it when it's really not the right word for the situation. I know I'm guilty of that. I think we often use the word rebuke, when another word would be better. "God, reminded me today, that..." or "God showed me his kindness by...", I think we just use the word rebuke because it sounds "religious" or more spiritual, or worse, it's a thoughtless habit. I believe there are indeed times when God does rebuke us, but we should be careful to reserve that word for when that actually happens.

    1. True, but why are we latching onto *that* word in particular? It's not a nice word. It's confrontational. It's very strong. It's usually used in Scripture for extreme situations.

      And that's my point here. In fundamentalism, it's perfectly normal to use a strong slap-in-the-face kind of word for everyday things. It's thoughtlessly thrown around as the usual way that God deals with His children.

      It's not how God usually deals with us. He's patient, and tender, and kind. His goodness is what leads us to repentance. And it was only after years now of being in a spiritual environment that understands this better that I was able to see how harsh my language and ideas of God were before. The thoughtless use of this word is a reflection of the poor theology underlying fundamentalism.